Four Ways to Improve Indoor Air Quality
The air you breathe is as vital to your health as the food you eat and the water you drink. In fact, HVAC issues can cause illnesses ranging from dry eyes and runny nose to hypertension and Legionnaires’ Disease, a deadly form of pneumonia. But poor indoor air quality can also have other causes. Here are four ways to improve indoor air quality.
Maintain Your HVAC unit
The leading cause of poor indoor air quality is caused by problems with the HVAC unit. The best way to solve HVAC-related health problems is to have your HVAC unit inspected twice a year – once in the spring, once in the fall. There are more than just health benefits to this – a well-maintained HVAC unit is less likely to fail and require expensive repairs.
You should also change your filter frequently, although experts disagree on how often “frequently” is – the range is between one to three months. A dirty air filter is the primary cause of HVAC-related health problems due to it being a paradise for bacteria, black mold, and other fungi.
Keep Your House Clean
There are many ways to keep your house clean with minimal investment. For example, you may want to use a vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter, which allows you to suck up lead, brominated fire-retardant chemicals (PBDEs), pet dander, pollen, and dust mites.
Another way to keep your house clean is to stop a problem before it starts and place mats at each entrance. People track in all sorts of dangerous chemicals on their shoes. A mat can stop more than just dirt; it can absorb pesticide residues. This is true even if the person entering doesn’t wipe their feet.
Image via Flickr by Kim Siever
Inadequate interior ventilation can cause a range of problems, from bad smells to mold. This is best solved by improving ventilation. For example, you will want an exterior-venting range hood or exhaust fan in rooms such as the kitchen and laundry room. You will also want to clean ductwork twice a year to ensure strong airflow and deter mold growth. Improved ventilation also helps with allergies.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) writes “Most home heating and cooling systems, including forced air heating systems, do not mechanically bring fresh air into the house. Opening windows and doors, operating window or attic fans, when the weather permits, or running a window air conditioner with the vent control open increases the outdoor ventilation rate.”
Invest in an Air Cleaner
This can be a simple tabletop model or something that encompasses your entire house. While not designed to remove dangerous gases such as radon, air cleaners circulate the air while absorbing pollutants. The government is currently researching how effective this is, and the EPA warns that despite the publicity surrounding houseplants as air cleaners, there is no evidence showing that a reasonable number of houseplants reduces pollutants in the home. The EPA also cautions that over-watering your plant can lead to damp soil, which can cause mold growth.
Remember, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. These four steps can save you a lot of difficulty over time.